Arts Emergency

Liz Ely

Development officer feminist campaigning charity

I am 26 and from Castleford in West Yorkshire. I now work for a feminist campaigning charity Zero Tolerance, in Edinburgh.

I very much enjoyed my time at university, and I enjoyed studying English and History which for me should be enough of a reason. I think it’s important to support work opportunities for people who don’t have wide personal networks, in part because I didn’t have many useful family networks, and I know I was lucky to be able to build up some of these whilst working part time as I studied.

I had a bit of a wobble in my first year and during that time did a lot of volunteering before re-starting my degree. This helped me gain part time employment as a youth worker, which then went on to shape my path working in community work and campaigning. I had no option but to work at university, which prevented me from taking on too many extra curricular activities or doing as well in my degree as I had hoped – however, I was lucky to get well paid, fulfilling jobs in the youth work sector which helped me to get work straight away after I graduated. I realise that had I not had those jobs, experience and networks they provided I wouldn’t be where I am today. I also know there is much less work around now than there was when I was at university, so this must be very difficult for working class students.

I have chosen to volunteer for arts emergency because I know it’s hard without family networks, or money. I always wanted to be a journalist but this is something I gave up on as moving to London seemed impossible, and I never wanted or was able to do unpaid work. My sister and I were the first in our family to go to University – and even though I graduated very recently I know that things were easier for me than for those starting university today. I appreciate that in many ways I have been very lucky, and I want to support others in any way that I can.”

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